Mom worries about COVID-19 exposure
DEAR AMY » I have a 3-year-old son. His father and I separated when he was a baby, but we have a good co-parenting relationship. We’ve never had any problems with this arrangement. My son sees his father nearly every day, and this is how we both like it.
I have an immune deficiency and mild asthma. Worrying about the COVID-19 pandemic, I do not want to leave my young son without a mother.
I’m trying to take every precaution against contracting the virus, including using lots of hand sanitizer, and cleaning anything (like groceries) that comes into my house.
My ex has a very robust immune system. He is not worried about the coronavirus. He is working and going out for groceries. He is not using hand sanitizer or cleaning frequently touched surfaces, like his car steering wheel or cellphone.
While he is physically distancing and washing his hands a bit more than usual, I don’t feel like this is enough, given my immune-compromised situation. If he gets the virus, he is likely to have mild symptoms or be asymptomatic. I’m afraid he will catch the virus and give it to my son, who will pass it to me. I’ve tried talking to him about this, but he is not receptive. I don’t know what to do.
What is your advice? — Worried Mom
DEAR WORRIED » Parents are supposed to have the capacity to forgo their immediate impulses for the sake of their children.
The best way to prevent this illness is to avoid exposure. The best way for your son to have both parents in his life, long into the future — is to avoid exposure. You and your ex should connect with your son’s pediatrician — together, and immediately — (through video conferencing) to ask for a physician’s advice.
Your boy travels between parents nearly every day. One obvious idea would be for these visits to be temporarily stopped, or cut down — temporarily, for everyone’s safety.
If your ex would agree to cut these visits to even three times a week, this would limit the number of possible exposures between households. You should also seriously discuss the reality and possibility of one parent (you or him) NOT having your son with you, perhaps for the next month, and then negotiating ways to make up the difference after the risk has passed.
The CDC suggests that children over the age of two should wear a cloth face covering when in a “community setting.” When your son is delivered to you, you should wear a mask, he should put on a mask, and be taken directly to the bathroom for some healthy handwashing and to take his temperature. There are many examples online of cloth masks made for kids, and you could either purchase or make one for him at home.
If you continue visits, don’t let him bring toys or books between households.
You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @askingamy.